AFC East: Music City Miracle

Music City MiracleAllen Kee/Getty Images
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Buffalo Bills history. Yesterday, we featured Scott Norwood's "Wide Right" kick against the New York Giants, and tomorrow we'll highlight Don Beebe chasing down Leon Lett to prevent a Dallas Cowboys touchdown in Super Bowl XXVII. Please vote for your choice as the Bills' most memorable play.

Score: Titans 22, Bills 16
Date: Jan. 8, 2000 Site: Adelphia Coliseum


Which is the most memorable play in Bills' history?


Discuss (Total votes: 36,628)

Can the Bills ever catch a break?

The Bills were one of the NFL's best teams of the 1990s, appearing in the playoffs eight times that decade. Yet just like their heartbreaking loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XXV, the Bills ended their 1999 season in stunning fashion.

These weren't the Bills once led by Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas, but it was still a respectable group. Three years after Kelly's retirement, the Bills were riding the hot hand of 37-year old quarterback Doug Flutie. An 11-5 record behind Flutie was enough for a wild-card berth and an opening-round tilt with the Titans.

But it wasn't Flutie who got the call in Nashville, Tennessee. Instead, the Bills turned to backup Rob Johnson, who was impressive in a blowout win in the regular-season finale -- when Flutie was rested. Johnson didn't have nearly the same success against the Titans, mustering 131 yards on 10-for-22 passing with no touchdowns.

Instead, the game turned into a defensive battle, with two second-half rushing touchdowns by Antowain Smith putting the Bills in position to win the game. The seesaw contest continued late in the fourth quarter, when the Titans pulled ahead on a field goal only for the Bills to march back downfield and take a one-point lead with 16 seconds remaining.

After kicking the go-ahead field goal, Steve Christie stayed on the field for the ensuing kickoff. Trying to prevent a big return, Christie directed his kick shorter, so that it was fielded by fullback Lorenzo Neal. That began one of the more improbable plays in NFL history, with Neal pitching it to tight end Frank Wycheck, who heaved it across the field to wide receiver Kevin Dyson.

Forward pass? Lateral? As fans and players tried to figure out if Wycheck's pass was legal, Dyson sprinted down the left sideline and into the end zone. It was over. The Bills had been shocked … again.

The Titans carried their momentum all the way to the Super Bowl, a loss to the high-flying St. Louis Rams, while the Bills have never recovered. Since they walked off the field in disbelief on that day 14 years ago, the Bills haven't appeared in the playoffs and have finished with a winning record only once, in 2004.

Bills: Dream/nightmare scenarios

May, 24, 2012
AFC Scenarios: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Yes, the start of training camps is two months away, but it’s never too early to consider the coming season. A look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Buffalo Bills in 2012.

Dream scenario (11-5): It would be a dream for Bills fans to see their team back in the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. The last time we saw Buffalo make the postseason, the Bills were the victim of the “Music City Miracle” in 1999. It has been a long line of disappointments and underachieving since that historic play. (Many Bills fans still contend that was a forward pass, by the way.) This year’s team looks poised to break the streak. This is the best team, on paper, that Buffalo has had in a long time. The offense will be dangerous if quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick improves his consistency in the passing game and Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller and the running game stay consistent. Buffalo also made improvements to the defense, including drafting corner Stephon Gilmore in the first round and adding stud defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. Chances are, everything won’t fall into place for Buffalo. But this is a sleeper team that does have a chance to make a jump and contend for the playoffs.

Nightmare scenario (5-11): Despite all the additions, there is no guarantee the Bills and their coaching staff can bring it all together in one year. What if Fitzpatrick continues to play like the second half of 2011 and is not the long-term solution? What if the defense struggles to make the transition to a 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt? What if big injuries again decimate this team? A lot can go wrong for the Bills, especially in a division where the reigning AFC champion New England Patriots are expected to dominate. The Bills are trying to catch up and cannot afford to make many mistakes in the AFC East. They were 1-5 against division foes last year. Bills head coach Chan Gailey is only 10-22 in his first two years in Buffalo. He has more talent than he has ever had with the Bills. There are no excuses for Gailey this year. It’s still somewhat of a mystery whether Gailey can coach. But we will find out in 2012.

Music City Miracle: 10 years gone

January, 8, 2010
We pause now for a moment of silence for Buffalo Bills fans.

Friday is the 10th anniversary of the Music City Miracle, the heartbreaking gadget play the Tennessee Titans pulled off to shock the Bills in the first round of the 1999 playoffs.

The Bills haven't returned to the playoffs since. A full decade in which the best moments could be described as pedestrian.

AFC South helmsman Paul Kuharsky marked the moment on his blog.

Perhaps the Bills will mark the moment by hiring a coach. Now, that would be symbolic.

As an aside, I left Las Vegas for the Buffalo News at that time. I started my new gig the morning after the Music City Miracle. Kuharsky explains in his piece how the play known as "Home Run Throwback" transformed Nashville into a genuine sports town.

Up in Buffalo, the city was numb. In many ways, the blood flow never came back. The Buffalo Sabres also were only a few months removed from "No Goal," the robbery that denied them a Stanley Cup.

My timing could have been better.